Hanoi exhibition brings back memories of food rations

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A jacket and a mess kit, displayed at the "˜
Vietnam , 25 Years of Innovation' exhibition, recalled a time of extreme hardship in Vietnam after the war

Spotted coupons used during the subsidy period for buying foodstuff and a picture of a crowded tram in Hanoi are among the moving images that remind visitors of a time of extreme hardship in Vietnam after the war at an exhibition that has opened in Hanoi.

"Vietnam, 25 Years of Innovation," being held at the Ho Chi Minh Museum to mark 25 years of doi moi (renovation) that shifted the country from a central command economy to one based on the market, consists of two parts the pre- and post-renovation periods.

Seeing a "rice book" issued in 1988, Nguyen Thi Sinh, 63, of Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung District, said: "[It] reminds me of the difficult life 20 years ago. To buy 10 kg of rice, I had to queue from early morning. After taking the rice home I would open the sack immediately: if it wasn't smelly I would feel happy the whole day."

At that time, the rice book was very important, even giving rise to the saying "His face is as sad as if he lost his rice book." The life of a family depended on it, Sinh said.

Like many people born after that period, Do Thi Nhung, a fourth-year student at the University of Law in Ho Chi Minh City, could not imagine a life when people had to queue for hours to buy a limited quantity of food with coupons.

"Through the exhibition, I better understand the life of my parents and grandparents, which I used to know only through stories."

The exhibition features many documents, photographs, and artifacts, including various kinds of coupons used during the period for buying milk for children and pregnant women, and garments, meat, and eggs.

Between 1975 and 1986, goods were not allowed to be freely traded.

After it adopted doi moi, Vietnam began to grow at a rate that was among the highest in Asia, increasing its per capita income to around US$1,200 now.

The exhibition also showcases Vietnam's economic, scientific and technological, social, cultural, and diplomatic achievements.

The exhibition has been attracting many foreign visitors. Ann, a tourist from Germany, said: "I am lucky to come to Vietnam now since I could visit the exhibition. It is very impressive. From it, I know more about Vietnam. You have achieved rapid development during 25 years of doi moi."

Another foreign visitor, Chirag, a British investment consultant, has studied the model of economic development in communist countries for the last five years.

It would have been more attractive and helped visitors imagine the changes if it had stories, statements, and video clips about the life of people during the period, instead of just pictures and artifacts only, he said.

Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs Van Tat Thu said: "The exhibition"¦ honestly reflects the achievements of the people and country following the renovation."

Organized by the National Archives Center III, Ho Chi Minh Museum, and National Museum, the exhibition, which opened on December 8, will go on until January 15.

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